“Home swapping” refers to a newer type of real estate and vacation-related practice that has arisen over the year.  In a home-swapping arrangement, one family will “switch homes” with another for a short period of time, usually for only a few weeks. 

For example, a family in New York may swap homes with a family from Hawaii, with each respective family utilizing the other’s property and amenities.  This sometimes occurs for a fee, but usually is done without monetary exchange.  The practice has become more popular, mainly due to a tight economy as well easier communication over the internet. 

Is Home Swapping Legal?

The problem with home swapping is that it may be considered illegal, depending on which jurisdiction(s) it occurs in.  For example, the arrangement may be considered a “short-term” rental arrangement, which is illegal in many states.  For example, in New York, a rental agreement for less than 30 days illegal; thus, the parties may become subject to legal liability for home-swapping.

In addition, there are many concerns regarding the safety of such practices.  Oftentimes, the parties may barely know each other, having met and exchanged over the internet.  The living arrangements likely aren’t covered by insurance, and one or both parties can be subject to theft or other types of real estate fraud

Lastly, some states are beginning to impose taxes on persons who engage in home swapping.  The justification here is that home swapping is basically the same as an illegal hotel, which can be taxed by the government for illegal operations.

What is “Couch-Surfing”?

Couch surfing is similar to home swapping, except that it usually involves single persons switching apartments or condos, rather than entire families switching homes.  Again, the same types of concerns apply to couch surfing- illegality in some states, insurance concerns, liability for theft, etc. 

Thus, practices like home-swapping and couch surfing should be avoided, especially if the parties don’t know each other or aren’t close family relatives. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Home Swapping or Couch Surfing Issues?

Newer practices such as home-swapping and couch surfing can result in legal penalties.  Such penalties can be avoided by not engaging in such practices.  Instead, it may be safer to utilize more standard arrangements like hotels or vacation homes.  If you have legal issues involving such practices, you should contact a real estate lawyer immediately.  Your lawyer can provide you with legal advice and can help you resolve any legal conflicts or lawsuits you may be facing.